Empowering women towards prevention from cervical cancer

ASSOCHAM-Cancer Care Foundation of India organised discussion on prevention of Cervical Cancer and importance of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine

New Delhi: ASSOCHAM (The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India) in association with Cancer Foundation of India (CFI) organized the first session of its web series of scientific and purpose-driven conversations on “Empowering Preventive Healthcare for Women: Series on Prevention of Cervical Cancer” with CFI as knowledge partner.
With over 80 participants, the event highlighted the urgent need for preventive health, especially in the fight against the diseases caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
The first session of this series that was screened on August 20, 2021, witnessed global speakers and subject matter experts highlight the need for raising awareness on cervical cancer and the much-needed preventive and early detection interventions in India, in order to work towards eliminating certain diseases caused by HPV.
Moderated by Sutapa Biswas, Executive Director of Cancer Foundation of India (CFI) the first session opened with remarks from Mrs Upasana Arora, Co-chair, ASSOCHAM, National Empowerment Council & Chairperson, Yashoda Super specialty Hospital who stressed on the need for raising awareness around cervical cancer.  In her address, she highlighted that though Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in India contributing to  nearly 20% of global disease burden, through wider awareness and better education around screenings, vaccination and treatment, the battle against cervical cancer could be won.
The experiential journey of Dr. Ashe Sahai, Consultant Gynaecologist, Sahai’s Medicare Centre and Mother & Child clinic and Cervical Cancer survivor demonstrated the manner in which the right treatment saved her life. “Early detection is the key to cancer cure”, Dr. Ashe Sahai shared how in the middle of her medical profession she experienced and survived cervical cancer. Cancer is scary, but for her, the experience of being a gynaecologist helped her cope with her cervical cancer diagnosis and surgery.
Prof. Maqsood Siddiqi, Founder, Chairman, Cancer Foundation of India & Former Director, Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute & Bose Institute, Kolkata acknowledged the Nobel Prize winning contributions made by Prof. Zur Hausen and even World Health Organization towards studies of human papillomavirus.
“Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in Indian women, contributing 21.7 % of the global incidence and 22.6 % of mortality in women. In my opinion, the actual number of incident cases of cervical cancer in the country would be several folds higher than what is currently known”, he added.
Dr. Partha Basu, Deputy Head, Early detection, Prevention & Infection branch, IARC-WHO, Lyon, France  shared the WHO’s call for elimination of  cervical cancer, and highlighted the two major tools of  vaccination for adolescent girls (below 15) and screening for cervical cancer as critical in the journey towards elimination of this cancer. “In the world, 55% countries have introduced HPV vaccine. 90% of high-income countries have already introduced the vaccine where only 50% of lower middle income have still not introduced the vaccine in their national immunization programme. Though 80% of cervical cancer is detecting in these lower middle-income countries.”
Dr Joan Benson, Executive Director, Public Health Partnerships Global Vaccines Public Policy, Merck & Co., USA highlighted the need for collective and holistic social, economic and health development and the need for women to be empowered to make informed health choices.
She highlighted, MSD is investing 1.7 billion dollars to expand the manufacturing and supplying of HPV vaccine. It is also one of the major suppliers GAVI.MSD is aiming to vaccinate 84 million girls by 2025.  Supply is not the main challenge in vaccinating but awareness, readiness, right information, communication, infrastructure is some of the important factor that needs to considered.